Written by Dr Supriya McKenna

Director at The Life Doctor

This article was written by Dr Sypriya McKenna and Karin Walker. Sypriya is a qualified medical doctor who works specifically with victims of narcissistic abuse. Karin is a solicitor, mediator, collaborative practitioner and arbitrator.

Supriya and Karin are the co-authors of 'Divorcing a Narcissist - The Lure, The Loss And The Law'.

Your views have been invalidated and ignored; your boundaries overstepped. You have been exploited, compared to others, argued with and demeaned. You are wondering who you even are, questioning your ability to make decisions. Perhaps you are worried you might be lured again by their charm? Perhaps, confused, you are wondering whether it is actually you who is the narcissist, as many do.

Narcissists lack empathy – although they can pretend to feel another’s pain, they actually just can’t care. You will have to model empathy for your children, so that they develop it themselves.

Separating from a narcissist is fraught with problems. You see, underlying that sense of superiority and entitlement is actually a person with a very fragile sense of self-esteem. They construct a false self (often a larger than life persona) to hide behind, an ‘armour’ which needs to stay intact. This armour is kept strong by validation from others; it prevents them having to face their own lack of self-worth. They need constant attention, all the time, in the form of adoration, drama or conflict. This is known as ‘narcissistic supply’.

In separation, suddenly this armour has been breached and their less than perfect life, exposed. This causes ‘narcissistic injury’, triggering narcissistic rage. And everything that follows is as a result. Awareness of what is likely to happen is key to coping.

As this uncontrollable rage pours forth, a narcissist will try to annihilate their former partner in every way they can
- financially, mentally, spiritually, even using the children as pawns to do so, weaponising them against you. They will badmouth you to alienate the children from you. They may refuse to pay for them in order to financially punish you, not caring about the effect on them. They might enlist them to take items from your home or to feed back information about you. They may suggest that they live with them, even though very often they are terrible parents – selfish, demanding of attention and immature. They may even make false allegations of abuse.

Narcissists lack empathy – although they can pretend to feel another’s pain, they actually just can’t care. You will have to model empathy for your children, so that they develop it themselves.

Limiting contact to the bare minimum is essential. Only communicate in the written word, preferably by email, not in real time to their face or by phone. Never respond to communications immediately – calm down first, and see the ranting accusations for what theyare-aploytoropeyouin to the drama they need. Consider whether you even have to reply at all, even to lies and attempts to discredit you. Do not be fooled by pity plays – they are just attempts to pull you back into the game that they must win.

Employ the ‘grey rock technique’: becoming as boring as you can to them, so that they slink off to find new sources of supply instead of you. If you have to see them, don’t make eye contact. Speak in a dull monotone using as few words as possible. Take away all emotion, both from the spoken and the written word. They’ll most likely ramp up their bad behaviour at first, but hold firm – do not be drawn in or let them push your buttons.

Breaking free of a narcissist is a momentous act of courage. Divorce and separation will be a drawn out affair. There is no justice in divorce with a narcissist, but there is an opportunity for growth, and true happiness. Be strong.

Choosing the right professional representation is an extremely important, yet difficult, decision.

You are looking for someone who:

  • is a specialist family lawyer;
  • has a sufficient level or air of seniority to hold the awe of your spouse;
  • understands all methods of possible dispute resolution
  • currently available (and which will be unsuitable for your situation);
  • will recognise the behaviour traits to which you have been subjected;
  • can manage the process and advise you specifically on how to deal with your particular situation.

If separation is your decision your representative will need to comprehend what an enormous step you are taking. If it is a decision which has been forced upon you it is vital that they understand the pain (probably physical as well as emotional) which you will be experiencing. They need to recognise how this will impact on your ability to make decisions.

Getting this selection right at the outset can save you a great deal of time and money in the future. Having the right person providing you with advice and support will be invaluable.

The spouse suffering from NPD is likely to react in a very predictable way for those who recognise the disorder from which he/she is suffering.

The narcissist will demonstrate:

  • The need to win;
  • Lack of empathy;
  • Supply gained from manipulation;
  • A need to have the last word; • A need to be in control;
  • Lack of morals or guilt (rule breaking).

The narcissist will imply multiple characteristic abuse tactics within the divorce which will include:

  • Financial abuse;
  • Emotional abuse;
  • Devaluing your legal team.

Your lawyer will need to be cognisant of the ‘need to win’. It may be more important for you to remove yourself from this relationship than to achieve the best possible financial outcome. When negotiating, always ensure that there is room for the narcissist to have the last word. It is pointless to impose time deadlines as the narcissist will always ignore them.

You and your lawyer will need to work together to be one step ahead of your spouse and ensure that they do not take control of the process.

Where children are involved you need to take special care to ensure that all child arrangements are as detailed as they need to be allowing no room for misunderstanding or incorrect interpretation.

Recommend Books

Divorcing a Narcissist – The Lure, The Loss And The Law.










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